Case Formulation in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Addressing Unfinished Business
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
Emotion-focused therapy (EFT) is designed to target and change unhealthy emotional processes that underlie the problems people bring to therapy with the goal of co-constructing new, healthier emotional processes.
After unfolding client presenting problems and developing an understanding of the client's emotional processing style, emotion-focused therapists engage in empathic exploration to track, access, deepen, and restructure emotion. Case formulation is conducted throughout, in the moment-by-moment process of therapy.
Case formulation in EFT involves the differential assessment of emotional states, recognizing in-session markers that prompt the use of particular tasks to help people regulate emotions and transform maladaptive emotional processes. Changes in emotional processing help clients reconstruct narratives and form new life stories.
In this demonstration, Dr. Rhonda N. Goldman works with a young woman who has unfinished business with her mother, using an empty-chair dialogue to help access the client's core emotion schemes.
EFT is designed to target and change the unhealthy emotional processes that underlie the problems people bring to therapy. After the formation of an empathic relationship and a strong therapeutic alliance, therapist and client focus on currently governing, underlying maladaptive emotional processes that have often formed earlier in life, in significant relationships and difficult circumstances.
Maladaptive emotions are based on negative learning experiences; they may have been adaptive once but are no longer. The goal of therapy is to explore them in order to access their adaptive components that have often been lost or obscured.
Through the process of therapy, clients are helped to heal past wounds and transform maladaptive emotions. This ultimately helps them engage in healthier, more adaptive emotional processes, and provides the necessary strength to tackle everyday problems.
Early in therapy, EFT therapists seek to unfold presenting problems, understand their historical significance, and assess clients' current emotional processing style. Therapists engage in empathic exploration to track, access, and deepen emotion.
In the context of a strong therapeutic relationship, EFT therapists engage in case formulation. In EFT, case formulation is conducted through the moment-by-moment process of therapy and involves the differential assessment of emotional states. It involves the recognition of in-session markers that indicate the use of particular in-session tasks for different types of emotional processing problems.
Such tasks are designed to help people regulate emotions, and transform maladaptive emotional processes. Thus, maladaptive emotional processes are the focus of therapeutic work and come to inform the ongoing themes of therapy.
Changes in emotional processing help clients re-construct narratives and form new life stories. Clients are facilitated to apply emotional changes to the presenting problems that initially brought them to therapy.
Rhonda N. Goldman, PhD, is an associate professor of clinical psychology at the Illinois School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Schaumburg and an affiliate therapist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois where she works with both individuals and couples.
She has co-authored three texts on emotion-focused therapy including Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy, Case Studies in Emotion-Focused Treatment of Depression and Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love, and Power. She is currently writing a book on case formulation in emotion-focused therapy.
In addition, she practices, teaches, and conducts research on emotional processes and outcomes in therapy and has written on an array of other topics such as empathy, vulnerability, depression, and case formulation. She sits on the editorial review board of two journals: Psychotherapy Research and Person-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapies.
She is the recipient of the 2011 Carmi Harari Early Career Award from APA Division 32 (Society for Humanistic Psychology).
- Elliott, R., Watson, J., Goldman, R., Greenberg, L. (2003). Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy: A Process-Experiential Approach to Change, Washington: APA Books.
- Ellison, J., Greenberg, L., Goldman, R., & Angus, L. (2009). Maintenance of gains following experiential therapies of depression, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 77, 1, 103–112.
- Goldman, R. & Greenberg, L. S. (2007). Integrating love and power in emotion-focused couple therapy, European Psychotherapy, 7, 1, 119–138.
- Goldman, R. & Greenberg, L. S. (2010). Self-Soothing and Other-Soothing in Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy, in A.S. Gurman, Clinical Casebook of Couple Therapy, New York: Guilford.
- Goldman, R. (2002). The Two-Chair Dialogue for Inner Conflict, in Client-Centered and Experiential Psychotherapy in the 21st Century: Advances in Theory, Research, and Practice, J. Watson, R. Goldman, M.S. Warner (Eds.), United Kingdom: PCCS Books.
- Goldman, R. Greenberg, L. S. & Angus, L.A. (2006). The effects of adding specific emotion-focused interventions to the client-centered relationship conditions in the treatment of depression, Psychotherapy Research, 16(5); 537–549.
- Goldman, R., & Greenberg, L. S. (2005). Promoting Healthy Emotion Regulation in Couples, In D. Snyder, J. Simpson, & J. Hughes (Eds.), Emotion Regulation in Families: Pathways to Dysfunction and Health, Washington: APA Books.
- Goldman, R., Greenberg, L., Pos, A. (2005). Depth of emotional experience and outcome. Psychotherapy Research, 15, 3, 248–260.
- Greenberg, L. & Goldman, R. (2007). Case-formulation in Emotion-Focused Therapy, In T. Eels (Ed), Handbook of Psychotherapy Case Formulation, New York: Guilford.
- Greenberg, L. S. & Goldman, R. (2008). Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love, and Power, Washington: APA Books.
- Greenberg, L. S. & Watson, J.C. (2007). Emotion-Focused Therapy for Depression, Washington: APA Books.
- Greenberg, L. S. (2002). Emotion-Focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings, Washington: APA Books.
- Greenberg, L. S. (2010). Emotion-Focused Therapy. Washington: APA.
- Watson, J. C., Gordon, L., Stermac, L., Kalogerakos, F., Steckley, P. (2003). Comparing the effectiveness of process-experiential with cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71, 4, 773–781.
- Watson, J.C. & Goldman, R.N. & Greenberg, L. (2007). Case Studies in Emotion-Focused Treatment of Depression, Washington: APA Books.
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- Emotion-Focused Therapy in Practice: Working With Grief and Abandonment
Jeanne C. Watson
- Emotion-Focused Therapy Over Time
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- Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy for Clients Dealing With Infidelity
- Three Approaches to Psychotherapy With a Female Client: The Next Generation
Judith S. Beck, Leslie S. Greenberg, and Nancy McWilliams
- Case Studies in Emotion-Focused Treatment of Depression: A Comparison of Good and Poor Outcome
Jeanne C. Watson, Rhonda N. Goldman, and Leslie S. Greenberg
- Emotion-Focused Couples Therapy: The Dynamics of Emotion, Love, and Power
Leslie S. Greenberg and Rhonda N. Goldman
- Emotion-Focused Therapy
Leslie S. Greenberg
- Emotion-Focused Therapy: Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings
Leslie S. Greenberg
- Emotion-Focused Therapy for Complex Trauma: An Integrative Approach
Sandra C. Paivio and Antonio Pascual-Leone
- Learning Emotion-Focused Therapy: The Process-Experiential Approach to Change
Robert Elliott, Jeanne C. Watson, Rhonda N. Goldman, and Leslie S. Greenberg
- Working With Narrative in Emotion-Focused Therapy: Changing Stories, Healing Lives
Lynne E. Angus and Leslie S. Greenberg